255. Telegram From Secretary of State Rogers to the Department of State1

3258/Secto 86. Dept pass Immediate Action USINT Cairo and Priority info AmEmbassy Tel Aviv. For Bergus from Secretary.

1. We note from reporting that Sadat will probably be leaving Cairo by October 10 so that we hope that we can have an answer from him to our proposal to bring the parties closer together in an intensified negotiation with the United States present.2 We note too that Acting Foreign Minister Ghalib is stressing the desire that the United States get down to discussing substance. We have to handle this with great care in order to avoid getting ourselves committed substantively to the position of one side or the other at this juncture as we proceed with our good offices role. You will have noted that Eban has indicated to us that if there were any give by Egypt on one of the six points cited in the Secretary’s speech,3 Israel would be prepared to consider such Egyptian views.

2. We therefore believe that in connection with your approach on our procedural proposal, and as a follow-up to it, you need to explore with him thoroughly one critical point in particular: Relation of the interim agreement to an overall settlement. In doing so, please do not leave anything in writing. Secretary intends to explore this point with [Page 916] Riad in his meeting on Friday,4 but we have no hope that he is either inclined or has any mandate to make a concession in this regard. We therefore want to get across to Sadat that if he is willing to consider sympathetically the kind of formulation have in mind on the relationship between an interim agreement and an overall settlement, that we would be prepared—hopefully in a negotiation in which the parties are in closer proximity, to come quickly to grips in a specific way on the other outstanding issues as described by the Secretary in his General Assembly statement.

3. In hitting this point, you have to make clear that Egyptian insistence—and we must admit to ourselves they have been absolutely unbending on this point from the start—on getting a commitment on total Israeli withdrawal to the international border as part of the interim agreement, as the Secretary said in his speech, was unrealistic.

4. Your presentation should be along the following lines:

A. We want to call Sadat’s attention in particular to two basic principles which Secretary in his speech said would constitute foundation of fair approach to interim Canal agreement: (1) that a Suez Canal agreement is merely a step toward complete and full implementation of Resolution 242 within a reasonable period of time and not an end in itself; and (2) that neither side can realistically expect to achieve, as part of an interim agreement, complete agreement on the terms and conditions of an overall settlement. Those final terms and conditions will have to be worked out by negotiations under Ambassador Jarring’s auspices.

B. Since these principles are fundamental to our thinking as we pursue our present diplomatic role with Egypt and Israel, we need to know if they are also acceptable basis from Sadat’s viewpoint.

C. We recognize that Sadat would have difficulty answering foregoing question without knowing our thinking about its logical counterpart—namely, nature of commitment by parties to on-going efforts under Jarring’s auspices to achieve final settlement and timeframe within which such efforts would take place.

D. We therefore want to share with Sadat our specific thoughts on how these two points might be handled in an interim agreement:

(1) We would envisage both sides explicitly acknowledging that the steps they were taking under the agreement were of an interim na [Page 917] ture with a view to facilitating attainment of a just and lasting peace based on full and complete implementation of S.C. Resolution 242 in all its parts. To that end, they would make a commitment to pursue negotiations effectively and expeditiously under Ambassador Jarring’s auspices.

(2) We would also envisage both sides explicitly undertaking to refrain from firing or other hostile acts and at the same time continuing their efforts under Jarring’s auspices to achieve the peace settlement described above.

(3) Finally, we would envisage both sides explicitly agreeing to review interim agreement in its entirety after specified period if final settlement not achieved during that period. In other words, both sides would reserve their positions with respect to what happens at expiry of a specific period of time in light of progress achieved by them in working out final settlement. Length of timeframe would have to be negotiated, but in our view six months much too short, given complex issues to be resolved and need for reasonable period to give this first step Quote test of peace Unquote time to work.

(4) As Jarring negotiations resume in accordance parties’ undertakings in interim agreement, we would obviously try to be as helpful as possible to move matters toward a final agreement.

(5) We urge President Sadat to examine carefully the specific ideas we have outlined above, which we have formulated carefully and precisely to meet what we understand to be one of his principal concerns—namely to make certain that an interim agreement would not lead to an indefinite occupation of Sinai. An indication from Sadat that these ideas formed an acceptable basis for dealing with issues of relationship between interim agreement and final settlement and of ceasefire would give dramatic impetus to our efforts to help parties realize first tangible, concrete step toward peace by end of year.5

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 658, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East Nodis/Cedar/Plus, Vol. IV. Secret; Priority; Nodis; Cedar Plus.
  2. See Document 254. Bergus made a “preliminary presentation” to Ismail on the morning of October 8. Ismail then conveyed the presentation to Sadat, who did not offer his reaction that day. (Telegram 2453 from Cairo, October 8; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27–14 ARAB–ISR)
  3. In his October 4 address to the General Assembly, Rogers called on Israel and Egypt to accept an interim Suez Canal agreement based on six points: 1) the agreement would be only a step toward complete and full implementation of Resolution 242; 2) maintenance of the cease-fire; 3) determination of a “zone of withdrawal” to establish the “principle” of withdrawal in a permanent agreement; 4) establishment of supervisory arrangements to monitor the agreement; 5) the presence of Egyptian “personnel” east of the Canal; and 6) free passage of the Suez Canal for all nations. (Department of State Bulletin, October 25, 1971, pp. 442–444) Excerpts of the address were printed in the New York Times, October 5, 1971.
  4. At their 75-minute meeting in New York on October 8, Rogers emphasized the importance of Egypt’s participation in proximity talks in an “effort make faster progress on interim agreement.” He also stressed that the United States understood Egypt’s concern about the interim agreement becoming the “new status quo,” declaring, “we will throw our weight behind ongoing negotiations toward final peace settlement.” (Telegram 3358 from USUN, October 9; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 658, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East Nodis/Cedar/Plus, Vol. IV)
  5. Bergus met with Sadat and Ismail for 90 minutes that evening to outline the Department of State’s proposal for Egypt and Israel to participate in what would become known as “proximity talks.” Sadat reiterated his frustration with “the arrogance of Israel” as well as his fear that the interim settlement initiative was “being diverted towards a partial settlement and a new armistice between U.S. and Israel” by which Israel would occupy Egyptian territory “for an indefinite time.” Bergus and Sadat agreed that the interim settlement should never be referred to as the “Suez Canal agreement,” as it connoted an avoidance of a final settlement and peace, and Bergus added that he was sure that Rogers would “give clear directive to make certain that all official USG references henceforth and forever more would be to an ‘interim agreement.’” (Telegram 2447 from Cairo, October 7; ibid.)